by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The National Science Foundation is spending nearly a half a million dollars to create robots that can tell stories to preschoolers.
The $440,885 project seeks to “push the envelope” of normal storytelling aimed at four-year-olds. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is conducting the study, which began last month.
“Early language ability, including vocabulary skills and oral language knowledge during preschool, is an important predictor of children’s academic success in subsequent school years,” the grant states. “Social robots that can engage children as personalized learning companions hold great promise in augmenting the learning experience of children with parents and teachers.”
The researchers explain that robots are unique because they can “play, learn, and engage with children in the real world.”
“The ultimate goal is to foster the development, learning and promotion of academic achievements and the well-being of children,” the grant said. “Such robots offer unique opportunities of guided, personalized and controlled social interaction during the delivery of a desired curriculum. They can play, learn and engage with children in the real world—physically, socially, and emotively.”
The project will develop robots that can act as tutors and tell preschoolers long stories.